Blagojevich lieutenant Lavin battles for state
June 19, 2006
BY MICHAEL KRAUSS
Jack Lavin likes the
front line. As a CFO of politically connected Rezko Enterprises,
with oversight of the Panda Express fast-food chain, Lavin served
up beverages in the stores. High school friends thought it odd
that Lavin was behind the counter, but that didn't stop him. Lavin
knew the value of serving on the front line.
as director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic
Opportunity, Lavin is Gov. Blagojevich's point man on economic
development. On Thursday, Lavin will be out front presenting the
governor's economic development strategy at a City Club lunch
Expect Lavin to outline
the importance of innovation.
"We've put a strategy
in place that embraces innovation," Lavin says. "It's
helping with trade, entrepreneurship, and work force development."
Lavin says. Illinois employment, international trade and tourism
are all up.
Lavin's a team player.
He's quick to credit Blagojevich. Says Lavin, "The governor
has been able to do this without raising taxes."
Lavin's a busy guy.
He's just back from China. His boss is up for re-election. There's
talk about a new Honda plant. United Airlines is rumbling about
relocating. The U.S. Department of Energy is considering Illinois
for a $1 billion model plant to cleanly transform coal to electricity.
"Two thirds of
our state has underground coal," Lavin says. "We have
more [British thermal units] of coal than Saudi Arabia and Kuwait
have oil. We need to burn it cleanly." Of the 12 possible
sites for FutureGen, four are in Illinois, he said.
Lavin's approach balances
major deal making -- he tirelessly worked the BIO2006 conference
-- with concern for individuals. During the three days of BIO2006,
Lavin was constantly out front pressing the flesh at the Illinois
"We exceeded all
expectations," he says. "Attendance hit record levels.
We generated more than 11,000 business meetings." Lavin's
proud of the network BIO2006 created among businesses, universities,
government and not-for-profits. The group wants to bring the show
here again in 2010.
"We helped fund
23 scholarships for teachers to go to the Biotechnology Institute's
Education Conference," Lavin says. That allowed Eva Aseves,
a science teacher at Washington High School on Chicago's Far Southeast
Side, to gain new teaching techniques.
Says Aseves, "They
showed us speedier ways to tag DNA in the classroom. Our old procedure
took up to eight hours of lab time. The new techniques take two
to four hours. In the 21st century, students must master computers
and the techniques around DNA."
Lavin's office was
recently criticized for cuts in support for local entrepreneurship
centers scattered across Illinois known as ITECs. Lavin blames
the reduction on decreases in tobacco settlement money and the
need to focus those funds on human services programs.
"We still have
$435,000 in the budget," says Lavin, who plans to "take
a look at the ITECs and see what's worked and what hasn't, and
try to make it better. I think there is opportunity there."
Expect Lavin will look
from the front lines.
Innovation Award winners take the stage at Thursday's Chicagoland
Chamber of Commerce and WBBM Newsradio 780 Business Leaders Breakfast
at Maggiano's. Chicago Board of Trade Chairman Charlie
Carey, Motorola VP Jim O'Connor Jr.
and Turbo Tap President Matt Younkle join Kuczmarski
& Associates President Thomas Kuczmarski
and WBBM Financial Editor Len Walter for a no-holds-barred
discussion of what it takes to succeed through innovation.
co-founded the Chicago Innovation Awards with the Chicago Sun-Times
in 2002. Nominations can be made at www.chicagoinnovationawards.com.
RPX Group founder Bob
Okabe is sponsoring Tuesday night's Chicagoland RPX Group Innovation
Whiteboard Challenge at the MIT Enterprise Forum meeting at Gardner
Carton & Douglas. A dozen presenters, armed with color markers
and a whiteboard, will have five minutes each to explain their
business concepts to a panel of judges. The winner takes away
$3,000 and the two runners-up $500 each.
"Great tech companies
start with a few people in a room discussing, shaping, and refining
an idea," Okabe says. He's hoping the Whiteboard Challenge
will do just that.
Krauss is a Chicago area tech writer and consultant.